History of Graffiti 


The earliest forms of graffiti date back to 30,000 years in the form of prehistoric cave paintings and pictographs using tools such as animal bones and pigments. These illustrations were often placed in ceremonial and sacred locations inside the caves. The images drawn on the walls showed scenes of animal wildlife and hunting expeditions in most circumstances. This form of graffiti is subject to disagreement considering it is likely that members of prehistoric society endorsed the creation of these illustrations.

Modern-style graffiti

Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought compared to toady’s popular messages of social and political ideals.

Historic forms of graffiti have helped gain understanding into the lifestyles and languages of past cultures. Errors in spelling and grammar in this graffiti offer insight into the degree of literacy in Roman times and provide clues on the pronunciation of spoken Latin.

Years back people protested about the policy painting the walls with her ideals, for example in World War II.

Graffiti as an element of hip hop:

In America around the late 1960s, graffiti was used as a form of expression by political activists, and also by gangs such as the Savage Skulls, La Familia, and Savage Nomads to mark territory. The relationship between graffiti and hip hop culture arises both from early graffiti artists practicing other aspects of hip hop, and its being practiced in areas where other elements of hip hop were evolving as art forms.

1.    Mid-1970s: By the mid 1970s time, most standards had been set in graffiti writing and culture. The heaviest “bombing” in U.S. history took place in this period, partially because of the economic restraints on New York City, which limited its ability to combat this art form with graffiti removal programs or transit maintenance. Also during this time, “top-to-bottoms” evolved to take up entire subway cars. Most note-worthy of this era proved to be the forming of the “throw-up”, which are more complex than simple “tagging,” but not as intricate as a “piece”. Not long after their introduction, throw-ups led to races to see who could do the largest number of throw-ups in the least amount of time.

2.      New York City decline: Just as the culture was spreading outside New York and overseas, the cultural aspect of graffiti in New York was said to be deteriorating almost to the point of extinction. Many favoured painting sites became heavily guarded, yards were patrolled, newer and better fences were erected, and buffing of pieces was strong, heavy, and consistent. As a result of subways being harder to paint, more writers went into the streets, which is now, along with commuter trains and box cars, the most prevalent form of writing.

Many graffiti artists, however, chose to see the new problems as a challenge rather than a reason to quit. A downside to these challenges was that the artists became very territorial of good writing spots, and strength and unity in numbers became increasingly important.

3.      New York Clean Train Movement: The current era in graffiti is characterized by a majority of graffiti artists moving from subway or train cars to “street galleries.” The Clean Train Movement started in May, 1989, when New York attempted to remove all of the subway cars found with graffiti on them out of the transit system. Because of this, many graffiti artists had to resort to new ways to express themselves. Much controversy arose among the streets debating whether graffiti should be considered an actual form of art.

Global developments

South America

There is a significant graffiti tradition in South America most especially in Brazil. Sao Paulo is the centre of inspiration for many graffiti artists worldwide.

Middle East

Graffiti in the Middle East is slowly emerging, with pockets of taggers operating in the various ‘Emirates’ of the United Arab Emirates, in Israel and in Iran. The most famous artist in Iran is A1one, he works in Tehran walls. The religious reference “נ נח נחמ נחמן מאומן” is commonly seen graffitied around Israel.

Methods and productions

Spray paint in aerosol cans is the number one necessity for graffiti. Spray paint can be found at hardware and art stores and come in virtually every color.

Stencil graffiti, originating in the early 1980s, is created by cutting out shapes and designs in a stiff material in order to form an overall design or image. Time is always a factor with graffiti due to the constant threat of getting caught by law enforcement.

Modern experimentation

Modern graffiti art often incorporates additional arts and technologies. For example, Graffiti Research Lab has encouraged the use of projected images and magnetic light-emitting diodes as new media for graffiti writers.

Characteristics of common graffiti

Some of the most common styles of graffiti have their own names. A “tag” is the most basic writing of an artist’s name, it is simply a handstyle. A graffiti writer’s tag is his or her personalized signature.

One form of tagging known as “pissing” is the act of taking a refillable fire extinguisher and replacing the contents inside with paint.

Another form is the “throw-up,” also known as a “bombing” which is normally painted very quickly with two or three colors, sacrificing aesthetics for speed.

A “piece” is a more elaborate representation of the artist’s name, incorporating more stylized letters, usually incorporating a much larger range of colors.

Other style is “wildstyle”, a form of graffiti usually involving interlocking letters and connecting points.


Theories on the use of graffiti have a history dating back at least to 1961. Many contemporary analysts and art critics have begun to see artistic value in some graffiti and to recognize it as a form of public art. In times of conflict, some murals have offered a means of communication and self-expression for members of these socially, and have proven themselves as effective tools in establishing dialog.

Anonymous artists

Graffiti artists constantly have the looming threat of facing consequences for displaying their graffiti. Many choose to protect their identities and reputation by remaining anonymous. Banksy is one of the world’s most notorious and popular street artist who continues to remain faceless in today’s society.

Art supporters endorse his work distributed in urban areas as pieces of art while city officials and law enforcement have deemed all work by Banksy to be vandalism and property destruction.

Radical and political

Graffiti often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority.

Between 1970 to 1980 the London Undergraund was covered by messages of anti-war, anarchist, feminist and anti-consumerist.

These movements or styles tend to classify the artists by their relationship to their social and economic contexts, since, in most countries, graffiti art remains illegal in many forms except when using non-permanent paint. Since the 1990s a growing number of artists are switching to non-permanent paints for a variety of reasons. In some communities, such impermanent works survive longer than works created with permanent paints because the community views the work in the same vein as that of the civil protester who marches in the street.

In some areas where a number of artist share the impermanence ideal, there grows an informal competition. But there are some artists who paint just for control over property.

Decorative and high art

In 2006, the Brooklyn Museum made an exhibition of the history of graffiti. It inluyed  works by New York of Crash, Daze and Lady Pink.

In australia, some art historians incluyed some local graffiti in visual art.

Government responses

North America

Graffiti advocates perceive graffiti as a method of reclaiming public space or displaying an art form; their opponents regard it as an unwanted nuisance, or as expensive vandalism requiring repair of the vandalized property.

In 1984, Philadelphia created PAGN, to combat the city’s growing concerns about gang-related graffiti. They protect the most beautiful mural with with fines and penalties for anyone caught defacing them.

In 1980sthe mayor of New York promoted an aggressive anti-graffiti campaign used “the buff” “; a chemical wash for trains that dissolved the paint. However, throughout the world, authorities often treat graffiti as a minor-nuisance crime, though with widely varying penalties.

In 1995s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York created one of the largest anti-graffiti campaigns in U.S. history. In the shops was prohibited the sale of spay-paint to children under 18, but in 2006, changed the law (change 18 to 21years). Violations of the anti-graffiti law carry fines of US$350 per incident.

In other American cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh created laws anti-graffiti.


In Europe, community cleaning squads have responded to graffiti, in some cases with reckless abandon, as when in 1992 in France a local Scout group, attempting to remove modern graffiti, damaged two prehistoric paintings of bison in the Cave of Mayrière.

In 2006 was created the European Commission: ti prevent and eliminate dirt, litter, graffiti, animals’ excrement and excessive noise from domestic and vehicular music systems in European cities.


In an effort to reduce vandalism, many cities in Australia have designated walls or areas exclusively for use by graffiti artists. One early example is the “Graffiti Tunnel” located at the Camperdown Campus of the University of Sydney.

Many state governments have banned the sale or possession of spray paint to those under the age of 18 . Tough new graffiti laws have been introduced in Australia with fines of up to A$26,000 and two years in prison.

New Zeland

In February 2008 New Zeland prime minister prohibed tagging and other forms of graffiti vandalism. The new legislation prohibed the sale of spay-paint to children under 18 and increases in maximum fines for the offence from NZ$200 to NZ$2,000 or extended community service.


In China, graffiti began with Mao Zedong in the 1920s who used revolutionary slogans and paintings in public places to galvanise the country’s communist revolution. Mao holds the record for the longest piece of graffiti, which contains 4000 characters criticising his teachers and the state of Chinese society.



Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism ?


"Is it art?” A question sometimes said and heard in museums, galleries, movie theatres, concert arenas, any place of creation. One such place is also the street, where the spectators often seem to wonder: “Is graffiti art or vandalism ?” If we take into consideration that graffiti have been around since prehistoric times, it sounds as if this debate is all too hoary; however, we shall look at graffiti as the phenomenon of a much more recent period, and in that context, the debate is only about fifty years old. As a response to modernism and social segregation, graffiti became the means of communication and identity for young people in New York City in the 1970s. The famous story of the NYC subway graffiti culture and the almost two-decade long struggle of the authorities to eradicate tagging represent the starting point of the conversation, a hot topic of the art world even today.

The Art of the Outlaws


To understand graffiti, we shall observe it as a form of street art which usually involves tagging, but also the creation of more complex paintings. From its earliest days, it was done outside the law, with writers taking big risks when making their works, this sometimes leading to their arrests. The excitement of being a renegade and the fear of getting caught is what many artists consider the very core of graffiti culture, especially during the days of rough, growing competition and the willing to become as good at drawing as you possibly could. When caught in act, however, the writers get charged with vandalism, fined, and given community service hours during which they help clean up graffiti. By definition, it is “an action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property”, and while we can’t argue that graffiti (mostly tags, considered a reductive form of art within graffiti community itself) often end up on someone’s walls, we do have to wonder if it really is “destruction” and if, perhaps, we’ve been asking the wrong question the whole time.



Paint the Picture of the Future

If graffiti’s only problem is the location, why not think about a universal solution? What if its purpose of being the voice of the young and the vibrant ornament of grey urban architecture became all that matters? Today, there are many urban art festivals around the world, created to promote street art everywhere and to encourage young creatives to pursue their dreams. Many of them are city-funded as well, with a scope of beautifying the environment with some extraordinary artworks. Even big corporations such as Red Bull, Adidas or 55DSL engaged graffiti talents in their advertising campaigns, over and over again. In cities like Stockholm and neighborhoods as Brooklyn’s Bushwick, you can find the world’s most famous legal graffiti walls areas, where tagging, bombing and writing are actually required. And just think of South America and its versatile art scene, where street arts are so embedded in culture and tradition that it’s impossible to imagine them otherwise. With all this in mind, we encourage you to think of graffiti as art and a public good, with its nuanced social commentary, splendid artistry and rebellious spirit – just like art is supposed to be.

The Popular History of Graffiti: From the Ancient World to the Present, written by artist Fiona McDonald, questions our culture’s urge to do graffiti since 30,000 BCE. From the band Black Flag, Lee Quinones to Fab 5 Freddy, Dandi, Zephyr, Blek le Rat, Nunca and Keith Haring, the book promises to be an important and dynamic addition to graffiti literature, illustrated with stunning full-color photos of graffiti throughout time. When did graffiti turn into graffiti art, and why do we now pay thousands of dollars for a Banksy print when just twenty years ago, seminal graffiti artists from the Bronx were thrown into jail for having the same idea? Graffiti has not always been imbued with a sense of aesthetic, but when and why did we suddenly “decide” that it is worthy of consideration and criticism? 


Is Graffiti Still Vandalism If It’s… Legal?


Let’s put it like this – someone painted over your house and, of course, you’re not too happy about it. No one has the right to do that without your permission and, without even looking at it, you can pronounce it vandalism. But would you feel the same way if you saw a really breathtaking piece of graffiti art on an otherwise dull wall in the city? The authorities wouldn’t care if it was a drawing in the range of a Picasso – if it’s painted on an owned property, it’s an act of vandals. So, does that mean that graffiti is art if it’s done legally? Or on a property, but with permission? That would surely explain the immense success it had within museum and gallery walls worldwide, with artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey having important exhibitions and making serious money from making their artworks. If created on canvas and placed on a wall at, say, Tate Modern, graffiti becomes a respectable form of art. Street art, in general, is a highly polarising matter, where contradictions create and depend upon themselves, yet what’s sure is that it’s called “street” art for a reason, and its public existence is still crucial for its spirit.